Those of Asian background likely look to rice as their staple food, but in my growing up years, it was potatoes. Mashed, fried, boiled, or baked, we had some kind of potatoes almost every night.
For those in Jesus’ day, the staple was likely bread. Kind of like, “What shall we have with our bread this morning or at lunch or this evening?”
It was such a mainstay of their diet that they often referred to it when talking about having a meal together. “Let us break bread together.” Early Christian believers might think of the last supper and its meaning as they ate. As they gathered together, they…
…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42
It may seem strange to us to think of “breaking” bread. Maybe slicing or tearing. But breaking bread?
A few years ago, we visited Nazareth in Israel at a place called The Nazareth Village. A guide talked to us about the customs and ways Jesus talked to the people about the familiar things around them. Those who put this area together intended it to be as authentic as possible complete with a well, people walking about in biblical clothes, a farmer plowing a field, a shepherd keeping his sheep in tow, and a place to eat lentil soup, figs, hummus, and of course, bread.
I remember watching the lady bent over a somewhat rounded stove of sorts. She kneaded the dough and flapped it on the hot iron for a bit, then turned it over. The flat, (maybe 10 inch) circular bread was carried on a flat basket to the table. We each broke off a piece to put on our own plates—not quite the texture of crackers, but close, “cracker bread” you might say.
John tells us that one day the people asked Jesus for a sign, a sign like Moses gave the people in the form of bread from heaven, the manna. Jesus explained to them that eventually the manna-eaters died, but the true bread from heaven…
“…is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:33
“Give us this bread,” they said. Then Jesus told one of his “I am” illustrations.
“I am the bread of life.” John 6:35
Jesus goes on to explain.
“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.” John 6:38, 40
One last thought—”Beth” means “house of.” Therefore, Bethel = house of God. Bethsaida = house of fishers. Bethlehem = house of bread.
Isn’t it appropriate that Jesus was born in Beth-lehem? House of (the) bread of life.
Prepare your hearts for the coming season!
~ Joyce ~